As we move through the toward 2015, the market for home sellers is a stable but relatively slow one throughout most of Northern Virginia. The Washington Post recently called it “sluggish”. For homes in good condition with updated features and in sought-after communities or neighborhoods, the market remains quite strong. That means if there is lots of competition in the For Sale market, you may need to be flexible on the list price or evaluate changes to consider to make the home more marketable.

For buyers willing to do a lot of fix-up work, there are almost always deals to be had. The keys for buyers are to be pre-approved for any financing, know what you want and be willing to act fast. Not knowing how the mortgage will work and all costs involved is too stressful. Always know that information before a serious house-hunt.

A recent Post article asserted that some potential buyers could be being kept away by the new tougher mortgage qualification standards. Uncertainty about the economy may have other buyers leery of making large purchases.

Throughout Northern Virginia, the average sale price for all types of homes sold (single family, townhomes and condos) declined 1.4% during the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013, according to Real Estate Business Intelligence. In what could be a sign the slowing market, the average number of days homes that were on the on the market  January – September increased to 47 days, up from the roughly 36 days it took on average to sell during the first nine months of 2013. See chart below.

The number of listings sold throughout Northern Virginia declined about 7 percent in the January to September 2014 period compared to the same nine months last year. Analysts are pretty sure this reflected the harsh winter we experienced through March. It’s tough to look for or sell a home when the weather forecast is for a half foot of snow, or more! The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a colder-than-normal winter but less than the usual amount of snow. Let’s hope we don’t experience a repeat of the polar vortexes.

As always, buying or selling a home depends on the local supply and demand for the home you’re looking for or trying to sell and what’s motivating the seller.

Interest rates are expected to hover between 4% and 5%. Amid a slowly improving economy  -- defense sector excepted -- questions looming about previously healthy stock market and improving overall employment, the Federal Reserve’s new interest-rate forecasts imply slightly more aggressive credit-tightening plans taking shape in 2015 and 2016. That, of course, could push rates higher.

Days on the Market – Northern Virginia Home Sales

Jurisdiction

First 9 months 2014

First 9 months 2013

% change

Alexandria City

44

37

+19%

Arlington County

37

35

+6%

Falls Church City

31

32

-3%

Fairfax County

40

33

+21%

Fairfax City

35

39

-10%

Manassas City

39

25

+56%

Loudoun County

41

43

-5%

Prince William County

44

36

+22%

All of Northern Virginia

47

45

+4%